Friday, June 24, 2005

Neat tricks

Here are two neat features of my PowerBook:
  1. I have used a mouse with a scroll wheel (under Windows) for years now, and I find it surprisingly frustrating to ever be stranded without one. Mousing away from whatever you're doing to use window scroll buttons is time consuming. Worse, for a while after starting to use the PowerBook, I would instinctively mouse over to the top of the scroll bar when I needed to scroll up, but by default the buttons are stuck together at the bottom of the window. Completely by accident, I discovered that moving two fingers up or down on the PowerBook's touch-pad scrolls the current window up or down. So now I've basically got a scroll wheel mouse. Firefox (but, as far as I can tell, not Safari) will also go forwards and backwards through hyperlinks by moving two fingers left and right. So no I've basically got a scroll wheel mouse with left and right side-buttons.
  2. Although it's got a lame, marketroid name (Exposé), Mac OS X's window-handling features are significantly more useful than Windows XP's. Sure, it does the standard Alt-Tab cycling (and Shift-Alt-Tab for reverse), but there's more. F11 temporarily clears the screen and exposes the desktop. Sure, Windows XP has a button to do the same thing, but I've never found a way to get the windows back using XP—no doubt one exists, but it beats me what it is. You can isolate just the windows of the current application with fn-F10. This dims the remainder of the screen, and brings all the current application's windows to the foreground, but, if necessary, shrinks them enough so that they can all be seen (possibly in miniature) at once. You can then select the window you're interested in. fn-F9 does this for all the currently open windows. (This is the kind of neat advantage you get when the operating system knows exactly what the graphics hardware is going to be, every time.)
Maybe every laptop with a touch-sensitive mousing area can do number 1, and maybe Windows XP can do some near-equivalent of number 2. Who knows. They're still neat tricks.


  1. Firefox: I haven't used Firefox in a while (in fact I don't even have it installed at the moment since I still prefer Mozilla), but I think I recall moving back and forward using the scroll wheel... Ah, yes lookie here.

    Keyboard shortcuts: Try a search for "Natural keyboard shortcuts" in Windows Help (WinKey + F1).

  2. Yeah, I am happy to admit that I have not looked terribly hard to find Windows equivalents to any of these. They're just some "Ooh, isn't this neat!" observations for Stephen White's sake.

  3. You know that using a scroll-wheel mouse will lead to carpal (sp?) tunnel, don't you?

    I find it amazing the amount of time I spend at work -- labouring away under Winblows XP -- hitting fn 9, 10 and 11, all to no avail. Wonderful, if simple, feature of Mac OS.

  4. I am sure that mousing in general is already causing me an injury, though it's in my upper arm. It seems to be a variant of gorilla arm. (And you spelled 'carpal' correctly, though everyone has a carpal tunnel. It's carpal tunnel syndrome that hurts.) I don't think I can live without a scroll wheel, though. I always grope for one on wheel-less mice, and I was pretty happy to find a touch pad equivalent on the PowerBook.

  5. Ooh, isn't this neat!